Dear Older Self,
I want you to find ways to practice letting go of self-centeredness so that you can see beyond your own needs to the needs of others.
You know what I mean by self-centeredness. It is a narrow focus that makes you blind to other people. It is that constriction in your mind and heart that can lead to self pity or to feelings of entitlement. It is the tendency to grasp and cling and even demand that things go your way.
Remember the elderly family member who spent so much time complaining about other people? She complained to you about other family members who didn’t visit often enough to please her. She complained that when they did come they spent time visiting friends and other family in the area rather than just spending time with her. She complained about her doctors because they did not give her all the time and attention she wanted. She complained about her husband because he napped most afternoons rather than sitting with her all day. At one point her self-focused complaints lead her to complain loudly that she was “angry at everyone.”
It was difficult to be around her. Her self-focus kept her from seeing and enjoying all the daily gifts that were hers. Her self-focus kept her from seeing and blessing the people in her life. It robbed her of so much and robbed other people of the gifts of gratitude, compassion and kindness she could have been extending.
Self-centeredness is like a flower bud that stays curled up and turned in on itself. Rather than opening to the world around it and sharing it’s beauty or the sweetness of its scent it remains closed off.
Letting go of self centeredness needs to be a daily practice all the days of your life. Please be aware that it may become especially challenging in times when you are experiencing pain, insomnia or loneliness. It can also become a bigger concern when you are feeling insecure about your value.
Your self-serving ego can take over when insecurity about your value sets in. Your ego is that voice in your head that believes that life is some kind of competition with “winners” and “losers”. It is a voice fed by fears that you have to impress others, that you need to do something to win favor or that you need to look good in order to be loved and valued.
Doesn’t it seem a little absurd that this voice keeps at it no matter how old you get? Even as you age it continues to push you to try somehow to look good. You can find yourself working on ‘looking good’ in spite of the wee small fact that your hobbling-along, sagging-around-the-knees-and-everywhere-else body is finding it a challenge to make an impression in our youth centered world.
You have seen how aging can set off insecurities. Your elderly friend who talked about herself as ugly, as a person without value and as someone no one would want to be around was an example of this. Her insecurities made it difficult for her to let go of her self-focus. It sometimes robbed her of the freedom to be thoughtful about the needs of others.
It is my prayer that you will experience some freedom from the burden of the self-centeredness. The need to be the center of attention, the need to be seen as special in some way, the need to be reassured of your value to others—it can all be a heavy burden. My prayer is that you will feel so secure in your God-given value that you will experience the burden-free way of being that comes as you set aside the heavy weight of self-centeredness and experience the freedom to love and delight in others.
So, dear older self, I want you to have a good laugh when you hear that ego-crazed voice in your head. Keep coming back to the most basic of things: You are loved. You are valued.
This truth will free you to be your vulnerable self. It will free you to be just your old, tired and needing-extra-help self. It will free you to focus on being thoughtful and attentive to others.
Letting go of self-centeredness allows you to be like the blossom that opens to the warmth of the sun, vulnerably sharing the fullness of it’s beauty with the world around it.
Being intentional about letting go of self-centeredness might include taking time to reflect on the people in your life. Put yourself in their place. What do you know about the responsibilities and concerns they carry? What do they enjoy? What matters most to them? How might you extend love and thoughtfulness to them?
Being intentional about being thoughtful of others might also include spending time praying for the people in your life. Remember your Nana who kept pictures of each of her extended family members on her dresser? She showed you how she put her hand on each picture every day and prayed a blessing for each one. You know what it can be like when you pray for someone. You know how this opens your heart more fully to them and how it can create a deep sense of spiritual connection with them. That is what your Nana said: “It is my way of staying connected.”
Dear older self, open your heart and mind to the people in your life. Pray for them. Be interested in them. Delight in them. Your life and their lives will be richer for it.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com